BWW Review: SOMETHING ROTTEN! Parodies Genius
The Renaissance was an era of rebirth, new ideas, and particularly in Elizabethan England, grand works of literature. Out of this era came the cat's meow of writing, the overshadowing bard, William Shakespeare, but what history doesn't quite tell us is that there were two other great writers of the day. Arguably, Nick and Nigel Bottom's words could compare only to those of Shakespeare's quill. Add in some spectacle, a soothsayer, and tap dancing and the musical Something Rotten! is born.
When I first saw the production in New York, I was hesitant to buy a ticket. (It was opening week, and there was hardly any coverage or media exposure.) Yet somehow, by the middle of the first act, I found myself giving a standing ovation for one of the best numbers I had ever seen in a musical.
It's hard to replicate that passion and energy, but the national tour did so with grace and high kicks. Though no standing ovation greeted the same number, the applause lasted for nearly a minute before the show resumed.
By no means is this the only showstopper; Something Rotten! compresses hit after hit into just a two-and-a-half-hour show. Did I mention that this show is also rich with humor that ranges from slapstick to deadpan and makes cultural, and phallic, allusions?
Surely the Puritan Brother Jeremiah (Scott Cote) would object, but exuberant and exaggerated tendencies are exhibited by other excellent cast members. Who doesn't love alliteration?
Nick Bottom (Rob McClure) and Shakespeare (Adam Pascal) meet again on this tour, having battled each other with quill and tap on the Broadway stage. Though some differences in the tour's staging, Mr. McClure and Mr. Pascal leave no doubt why they are reprising their roles. Each offers a performance of endurance and stamina that resonates well with the pop/rock/pop-rock score.
A review of this musical would not be complete without a mention of the dance breaks. Unlike a traditional image of an Elizabethan ball, the dancing in Something Rotten! was neither slow nor confined. Extravagant costumes exaggerated nearly all aspects of the exceptional dancing, which often times filled the entirety of the Benedum stage.
At the heart of this show is a dilemma to be true to thine own self or to profit and prosper off the shortcomings of your rival. It takes gall and bravery to stand up for oneself, but that isn't something that the Bottom brothers from Cornwall are able to discover overnight. Sometimes, it takes a little rebelling and some wise words of a loved one to help us see the light and give us the will power to be on top.
Something Rotten! is a light show, perfect for a fun and comedic escape at the theatre. If there is only one show that you can see this season, it should probably be Something Rotten! - not only because of the incomparable work of the actors, but also because you'll be seeing over three-dozen musicals in one.
To see or not to see score: 8/9; Strongly Recommended Show
Photo Credit: Jeremy Daniel